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The Story Of John Hornby 1901-1974

Author - John Haydn Barker Hornby, 2001. Edited and Published 2003 Copyright © Hubmaker
No part of this publication may be reproduced by any means without the prior consent of the publisher.

Chapter 11 - Disarming the Germans

At the end of 1944, John Hornby was attached to the Allied Control Commission at Eckernford, Schlesvig Holstein, North Germany, involved in the task of disarming the Germans after they had been partly defeated and the Allied army had passed through. Having learned a lesson from the first world war, the Allies felt that it was absolutely vital to totally destroy all German means of making war for many years to come. A programme of capturing and destroying as much German war material as possible resulted.

My father said that he was trained quickly to be dropped by parachute behind the lines of the advancing army, but that the advance was so rapid that it was not necessary. In the end, he went by sea to Antwerp, thence by road to Eckernford where he was then based.

Eckernford is a North German seaport and the Royal Navy was responsible for all disarmament there. At that time it was the German Navy's principal experimental station for torpedoes and underwater research (the German equivalent of Portland, I suppose) and a massive destruction campaign had to take place. 8,500 torpedoes and 5,900 separate warheads were found there and destroyed. Thousands of tons of munitions and unstable explosives were either dumped or destroyed. The Navy buildings were smashed to pieces and this at a time when there was a truly desperate shortage of shelter for thousands of displaced homeless refugees as a result of the war.

Questions were asked in Parliament about this wholesale destruction of these buildings, but the Commander in Chief of the operation made the point that "we must not leave in existence the nucleus of a torpedo arm for the next continental power".
He won the day and the destruction continued, prevailing over all humanitarian considerations.

Eckernford 1944
So, to my father's time there: it was a policy of the Navy to send older men (he would be 43 at the time) on this work because of their background and wide experience. Also there was a firm non-fraternisation policy with the Germans, and it was thought that older married men would be more likely to abide by that policy.

Furthermore, the work would be looked upon as just another posting in their long naval careers. They were re-uniformed in army type battle dress with Naval flashes and insignia.

My father's personal stories, records and photographs show that they took possession of 150 German miniature submarines, and countless stores of guns and ammunition. He told the story of befriending a little German girl who eventually led him to a barn full of weapons. My air gun, the Heinel, was flown to me unobtrusively by an R.A.F. pilot (in return for the hand gun of his choice). My father also brought home several souvenirs 2 pairs of binoculars, a German sextant and a large rangefinder, both presented to Preston Sea Cadets for their museum, along with the big pair of 12 x 75 binoculars when he left office with them. They are still in the museum to this day. There were two other guns brought home; one was, I believe, a luger and the other possibly was a small mauser. Both had holsters and were lovely oily blue steel weapons.

Two more brief stories about that time: The Allied policy of destroying everything in sight resulted in probably the worst maritime disaster ever. Three German ships the "Cap Arcona", the "Deutchsland", and the "Athens" were at anchor in the nearby harbour of Neustadt, and were attacked and sunk by British Typhoon aircraft. Almost 7000 people, mainly concentration camp survivors, were drowned, and any who survived were either shot or clubbed to death by the Germans when they staggered ashore.

There is also a James Bond connection. Ian Fleming, the author of the Bond stories, was right in the forefront of all this work. He formed a cloak and dagger/commando type organisation called the "30th assault unit" to move in rapidly behind enemy lines and seize important ports and equipment and gather vital intelligence, before the Germans could wreck it all. It was a highly successful unit, capturing intact among other things 16 type XXl state of the art U Boats.

My father's time there was a happy one. He had a little dog called "Jan" and he drove a Mercedes car captured from the Germans. He went fishing, sailed a folkboat, and belonged to the United Services Eckernford Yacht Club (I still have the burgee). For him, the war was over.

The village of Tarleton, two miles from Hoole, had at that time a charismatic Rector called Len Forse. The Rev'd Forse was a rare and dedicated man who had himself fought in the First World War. One of the things he did was write a weekly newsletter which was sent to all serving sailors, soldiers and airmen from Tarleton and the adjacent villages. Every week a newsletter about what was going on at home!

Towards the end of the war Reverend Forse had three special solid silver medals struck to be presented to the first Tarleton airman to land at Berlin Airport, the first soldier to enter Berlin, and the first sailor to pass through the Kiel Canal.

My father claimed and was awarded the Kiel Canal medal, now with his artifacts along with press cuttings. He also presented, in appreciation, various items including a German Iron Cross Medal, to Tarleton School museum.

Len Forse spent nearly all his own money on this sort of thing I knew him he was one of those rare, amazing people that come into one's life from time to time. When petrol became available again, the Tarleton villagers clubbed together and bought him an old car to help with his pastoral work.

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